Calorie (kilojoule) counting
Humans in the Pleistocene had no idea what a kilojoule was, let alone how to count them. But they survived, and thrived and were not overweight. However, we are not living as part of a Paleolithic culture with its accumulated wisdom and sense of oneness with the environment. We do not have the knowledge borne of tradition and practical experience to enable us always to judge which foods are best, which are the most nutritious. We do know, however, and can remember, which foods we like: tastiness, sweetness, mouth feel. On that model, there is some justification in looking at the scientific analysis of the nutritional properties of foods, whether that be their macro- or micronutrient composition, their energy content, their fibre content or their toxicity. In the same way, you might look at whether the foods were organic or fresh, whether they required large inputs of fossil fuels in their production and transport. The aim should be to blend this scientific, economic and ecological knowledge with your sense of the taste of the food so that you can develop a Paleolithic sense of the food's merits.
So, count the energy units while you are learning about a food. But then cut free so you can eat opportunistically in a Paleolithic way: eat what is in season (over-indulging if you feel that way inclined); miss a meal; postpone a meal to enjoy it with friends; grow what you can and enjoy it, even if it is not consistent with someone else's ideal; don't always rush (look at the Slow Food philosophy). Develop a relaxed attitude to food; do not think of diet in terms of denial; eat to your satisfaction: physiological, intellectual and emotional. Have your own ideas about what you eat; even have taboos (hunter-gatherers seem to have had taboo foods and they did not, necessarily, eat every edible food available locally). You'll find that once you internalize your Paleolithic understanding of the merits of individual foods, you won't even think of eating anything else. Be alert to your body, but don't always assume that a physiological event is necessarily linked to the foods you ate within the last week.
Evfit home On to foods On to What is Paleo? See Stephen Boyden's paper for the importance of conviviality and food
Updated 30 December 2007